Chattanooga
December 1993, USA

Wot Dabney and Dan Twilly (cave terrorists Inc.) No pitch too deep, no crawl too long, no squeeze too tight. We’re the lads with bad habits and we’ll blind you with halogen.


Dan and I left Bernies house around lunchtime - our destination, Incredible Pit Pigeon Mountain, Georgia. Driving through the hills I could see that there was no doubt that this could only be described as a caving heaven. Limestone everywhere, most of which unfortunately (?) had a sandstone cap. As you are probably aware, sandstone is not affected by water as is limestone so in effect what you are left with is cave sysstems but without entrances, or at least not ones that you can get in. Sad but that’s life.

Soon we were on the dirt track that was to take us to the cave. This was giving Dan’s pickup a hard time but it didn’t let us down. Off up the hill bouncing from one side to the other whilst head banging to hard rock on the tinny car radio. I had to tell Dan that it was time he screwed the passenger seat into the car as I was about to empty the contents of my stomach (half digested Big Mac and fries swimming in chocolate milkshake) onto the windscreen. Soon we were there, got changed and walked down to the entrance which was rigged with no respect for the rope (normal practice in the States). I was first down and whilst rappelling I couldn’t help noticing that all around me were hanging death boulders (about cow sized) waiting to fall and crush my bones.

Soon “off-rope” I found that I was in a tine, lofty but morbid canyon half illuminated by a stream of daylight. Dan was soon down and he told me that the way on was right, under some very shattered rock which in turn led to a crawl and the second pitch (60ft). Entering from the roof of a large chamber a stream is met which we followed to the third and final pitch. A powerful draught sucked inwards towards the pit.

“This is not the place to hang around.” said Dan.

“Yeah. It’s blowing like a frog on fire!”, I replied.

Then I rigged the rope as Dan fed it to the cave monster. Traverses, deviations, rebelays? No chance! It was done the right way, straight in the water. Dan explained that the rope leaves the line of the water after a bit (a bit being 400ft). After some debating over who should go first I nominated Dan, age before beauty and all that, but he told me that I would enjoy it more if I went first.
“Yes, but if you go first then Ill get a good impression of the drop from your light.” of course it was complete bullshit but it got him to go first. Down he went quivering like a fat lady with his usual nerve calming “Bing, bong, bow” down into the depths of the shaft. “Offffff rope!!”, Dan called.


I approached the lip and took one last look at the rusty bolts I was tied into the descended. A surge of adrenaline pumped through my underpants and to believe that I never knew that pain was so close to pleasure. I looked down the cylindrical shaft with Dan being just a phosphorescence in the distance. I never could have imagined what I was about to see next. This shaft had “rings’ around it, bands of different shades of limestone, flawlessly smooth with no ledges, fluting or formations except for a narrow calcite flow near the lip. This continued for about 280fi until the shaft funneled outwards into a chamber with an adjacent rift. On my decent I had passed a large passage going off at around -300ft so I quizzed Dan as to where it led. He told me that it led to Giants Hall and that we could go there later if we wanted.

I was surprised that the way on was not the obvious one but a climb up into a higher fossil trunk passage. This obscure route took us along lots of recent breakdown and then onto a series of fine large chambers. Eventually this would take us to Fantastic Pit on the other side of the mountain.
On our return we had to have the minor epic, let’s face it every trip has to have one. Dan’s tackle bag ended up down a small rift and totally beyond our reach, so with a little improvisation and fifteen minutes of nail biting inverted fishing around we retrieved it. We also stopped again to take a closer look at the recent breakdown. It was probably (we think) caused by the nearby open cast quarry or who knows, even a small earthquake?

A detour was made on the return to look at the previously mentioned Giants Hall which entailed a devious traverse up and across the Incredible Pit at about 180ft up the pitch. After scrambling over even more breakdown we caught sight of Giants Hall. Images of a huge chamber of mind blowing proportions had been in my mind. It turned out to be the usual terminal breakdown chamber with what can only be described as a large dung heap in the middle. Wonderful!

Dan and I rested a while before making our way back to the pit. Climbing tandem with Dan is great fun as he likes to chat to you about vertigo, death and condemned rope which was what we were climbing. Soon we were both higher than two astronauts on heroin and back in the waterfall with me acting as human umbrella for Dan. I wondered why he wanted me to climb above him.
We both knew by now that we had certainly exceeded or call-out time and half expected to meet an NBC news-crew at the entrance. So we made haste and made a stampede for the entrance. A couple of hours later we were back at the car and changed, ready to go phone hunting. When we did eventually find one, we found that Bernie had gone to bed. He is one of the rescue team!!! Oh dear.
That day Dan and I had spent eight and a half hours underneath Pigeon Mountain and arrived at Bernies house as high as sopranos on Helium for it had been a truly incredible day! Cheers Dan!


Jason Pitman

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